Chinatown has gone through somewhat of a revival in recent years. Newer restaurants that have opened have spent considerable budgets on achieving a modern design and look rather than aiming for the traditional, stereotypical no-frills buffet image. Shuang Shuang is one such restaurant; walking in you might think you’ve stumbled into a slick European restaurant with its light olive/white designs, gleaming metallic stands and a welcoming open kitchen. You actually rarely see an open kitchen in Chinatown.
However, Shuang Shuang is no ordinary restaurant: it is a cross between a kaiten sushi and a traditional hot-pot restaurant whereby the ingredients whizz by you on a conveyor belt and you decide which ones to take and put into your hot-pot. On a late Saturday night visit, we are talking about almost 22:00, the restaurant was still filled with hungry punters eager to try out this new concept. Although, I would recommend visiting during peak times, as your experience will most likely be affected by what is put out on the conveyor belt. The conveyor belt was looking sparse by the time we visited and had virtually no seafood, although they were happy to take direct orders from the kitchen. However the joy of the experience is about discovering new ingredients to try visually first hand.
The first task in hand is to pick your broths for the hot-pot. We opted for black bird and tom yum; the ideal is to pick 2 contrasting flavours, we had the healthier option with the luxurious rare black bird and then the richly intense aromas from the tom yum broth. The next task is to pick your dipping sauce: we went for a creating your own mixture, which turned out more difficult than first thought with 8 different ingredients varying from red bean curd paste to sesame butter and we weren’t offered a teaspoon to assist with the mixing.
Finally, the key part of the night is picking the ingredients you want to cook as they whizz by you on the conveyor belt. I wanted to use the word invitingly pass by, but you could hardly describe raw meat as inviting unless your name is Hannibal Lecter. Some dishes worked extremely well: the Japanese marbled beef was a picture of perfection and had the ideal amount of meat to fat distributed. The lobster was outrageously fresh to the point one of the legs was still moving on the plate of ice and did cause alarm with our neighbouring guests. The mixed mushrooms is another to order with an excellent varied selection of needle, oyster and chestnut mushrooms. Less enticing were packets of instant noodles rotating around and some of the meat were harder to identify despite the animal logo and suggested cooking timings on the plates. Maybe written labelling would be an improvement?
I did have an issue with using the same chopsticks for handling the raw meat as well as the cooked meat. Most other hot-pot venues do offer separate chopsticks for cooking and eating. Despite some teething problems and it is a fidgety experience, it is a remarkably exciting adventure and the perfect place to take a date along where you can claim you are cooking for him or her.